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Democracy & Technology Blog Regulate broadband, or regulate the Internet?

Commenting on routine contract (e.g. “retransmission”) negotiations between Fox and Cablevision, Michael J. Copps of the Federal Communications Commission had this to say:

For a broadcaster to pull programming from the Internet for a cable company’s subscribers, as apparently happened here, directly threatens the open Internet. This was yet another instance revealing how vulnerable the Internet is to discrimination and gate-keeper control absent clear rules of the road.

Whoa.
Copps is saying net neutrality regulation should apply not only to Internet access providers, but also to content providers. That’s not exactly mainstream. You’ve got to appreciate the guy’s intellectual honesty.
In May, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said:
“I have been clear about what the FCC should not do in the area of broadband communications: For example, FCC policies should not include reguting Internet content, constraining reasonable network management practices of broadband providers, or stifling new business models or managed services that are pro-consumer and foster innovation and competition.”
He also said in the same speech in reference to his proposal to define broadband as a Title II “common carrier” service (pursuant to the communications Act of 1934),
“It will treat only the transmission component of broadband access service as a telecommunications service while preserving the longstanding consensus that the FCC should not regulate the Internet, including web-based services and applications, e-commerce sites, and online content.”
So apparently there is a huge division in the majority (there are 3 Democratic and 2 Republican members of the FCC) between regulating Internet access on the one hand and regulating Internet access, content, applications and services on the other.
If I were a politician, which thankfully I am not, I would interpret it this way: Proposing to regulate only Internet access is a “divide and conquer” strategy. Machiavelli would approve. Proposing to regulate Internet access, content, applications and services is a suicide strategy. He would not approve.
Whether it’s regulating broadband or the Internet, I think it is extremely bad policy from an innovation and investment perspective. Investors defer purchases in pursuit long-term profit. If government expropriates that profit through regulation or taxes, investors won’t invest. It’s that simple.

Hance Haney

Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project
Hance Haney served as Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, in Washington, D.C. Haney spent ten years as an aide to former Senator Bob Packwood (OR), and advised him in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee during the deliberations leading to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. He subsequently held various positions with the United States Telecom Association and Qwest Communications. He earned a B.A. in history from Willamette University and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.